Friday, February 24, 2017

The Second Hand

So hello. It's long about 6 am and I haven't slept yet. 2017 has started off the way most people feel 2016 ended. Hellish. Between medical issues in the family, job stuff, political bullshit and having had a really bad cold the past two weeks, I can't say I've really felt great about this year.

We had a plan of action, now that's just...dust in the wind. I keep saying once we get clear of this stuff, but it seems like this stuff is replaced by that stuff is replaced by more stuff. It's stupid. Whether intentional or even their fault, too, people are being antagonistic as hell, and that's driven me as close to the edge as I want to get.

I'm currently trying to recapture sanity with long showers, adult coloring books, alone time with stupid shows, and Two Dots. I'm also trying to regroup and get stuff going like I wanted to this year, which includes writing stuff.

To that end, this: 642 things to write about.

I don't know how often I'll do it, though I hope it will be "quite." Still, life has a way of keeping you at the hospital for hours when you don't expect it, so we'll just not commit to that which we can't be sure we can finish.

But we start with one foot in front of the other, and today, the little seed is this: Things that can happen in a second.

When I thought about it, my brain wanted "the most" that could happen in a second. What's the biggest thing that can happen in the space of only a second?

And here's what I wrote down:

Lights on/off
A kiss
A gunshot
A punch lands
A birth

The last one, I thought, doesn't fit.

But then, it does, doesn't it?
The thing about birth is the ultimate newness.
At 12:16:59 am on November 23rd, I wasn't.  At 12:17:00...I was. And I continue to be. Being takes more than a second, but the truth is, all beginnings are marked by that newness.
One second ago, that kiss hadn't happened, and you were only friends.
One second ago, that bullet hadn't pierced that person's heart, and they weren't dead.
One second ago, nothing was unusual, but now it is.

Everything comes down to the second things change.
And when I thought of that, I felt scared and sad. Because one second from now, I could lose everything. One second from now, we could make mistakes that end our relationships, our lives, our safe place. Everything can just come apart, and that change can come in the next second.

But isn't it hopeful, too?
One second ago, all the hopes and dreams you had inside you for the thing growing in your belly for nine months were just hopes and dreams, and now, gasping for air and covered in blood and viscera, here's someone new, here's a blank slate ready for their own hopes and dreams and yours along with it.

One minute, you're sitting alone, the next you're with someone wonderful.

One second is important because things can change in just that split second blink.
It's important because just because things have been one way for 129,000 seconds, that doesn't mean 129,001 won't completely blow your mind.

Maybe all 5,184,000 seconds of these past two months have been one way, but...that doesn't mean that this next part can't be different.

It's 1,486,000 seconds til vacation. Or it was. I just need to watch that tick away and believe that I can keep going through it.

Friday, February 3, 2017

*Clap Clap Clap Clap*

It's a 90's reference. You have to clap quickly. Then you'll get it more easily. I'll wait.
Ok, no I won't, cuz it's late and this is important.

Also, you need to scrollify. A lot. It's pic heavy here in these parts.

I needed this tonight. Thank you, Facebook, for doing something right for once and reminding me it's National Friend Day. Or whatever. Anyway, thanks, cuz wow.

These are just a HANDFUL of the people in my life that make me so, so happy. They're the ones I can count on, laugh with, cry with, and who have shaped who I am with their guidance. We've learned through each other's mistakes, grown up together in many cases, and in some others, worked together or played together or internetted and found that we all were very much supposed to be together as friends. 

These are the people who showed up to my birthday when I announced the same day I was gonna go to dinner and 25 people showed up (NMers, I love you for that. I wasn't gonna do anything at all and suddenly it was a huge party)
The ones I crashed with, took trips with, learned and grew with. 

I am so so infinitely lucky. 

I can't even fit all of you in this post. I literally can't, I'm breaking the photo thing. 

Just know I love you. Know I appreciate you. Know that I am damn sure our paths will cross again as long as your door is open. Know you're loved, because you are. All of you. 
Thank you for making my life the silly, happy, amazing, diverse place it is. Thank you for reminding me that it is when I forget (like you Joey, just yesterday)

Thank you so, so much. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Inexplicable Public Nudity and Complete Ineptitude

Well hi.
It's January 2017, I hear.
Herein I usually say something about how often I'll post or what I want out of the new year.

Right now though, before I do any other sort of posting, I need to speak my piece.
On Inauguration Day, I just posted this: "The emperor has no clothes."

But there's more that I need to say.
I don't like going political, but I also really, really don't like censorship and lies. I couldn't help but post at least something on social media, even though I'd sworn it off for the day, because this is too much.

In my little circle of the world growing up, we hadn't yet stopped using "retarded" as an insult, and as kids, would throw it around quite a lot. Also as kids, though I am not proud of it, we'd throw around a gesture that meant the same thing. As kids. And even though we were kids, we knew what it meant, and that it wasn't a nice thing to do.

When I was learning to write, I remember people saying you could around a subject and still get an A on your paper. Degree in BS and such. You just act like you know what you're talking about, pepper in some vocabulary, maybe make a point or two and you're done. But even the teachers in our 'imperiled, ghetto' school district (where there were actually some really amazing educators) were able to call you on your bullshit so fast your head would spin.

"You're not talking about anything at all here."

"You can't just throw vocab words in and expect that to work"

"I can't find a single point in this."

We were also taught history. The Great Depression, internment camps. The Red Scare. Remember the Red Scare? You know, where people were out hunting commies? The Cold War when Russia was the big bad? Every TV and movie ever for YEARS with completely cartoonish Russian bad guys?

Remember when Bill Clinton almost got impeached for "not having sexual relations with that woman?" And the outrage because he was lying, even if it was "just" about his personal life?

Remember, people I grew up in church with, 2 Thessalonians 2: 3-5. About the man of lawlessness that is supposedly coming?

"who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God."

And maybe that last one seems outlandish, but at the very least, can't you take it as a warning that people like that are bad news? Does it not fit the bill more than you're comfortable with?

Do you remember the last time millions of people, including those from other countries, gathered to protest the inauguration of a president or organized because they were certain they were about to lose their rights? Did you see that with Bush or ...well, Bush, or even back to Reagan?

And...if you see or know any of are you NOT afraid of this administration, this presidency. How are you not afraid of the censorship of government agencies? How are you not afraid of the lies that can be demonstrably proven as such? How are you, God loving Christian, "God so loved the world" "the greatest of these is love" and watch someone incite violence and mock the disabled. How could you have been so disgusted that the president had an affair back in the 90s and not be disgusted or outright alarmed now. How can you have scolded your children for calling people retarded or using that gesture we ALL KNOW meant that and say he was just waving his hands in a random pattern? How can you let the now president and his cabinet go with "alternate facts?"

How can you post Facebook memes about how all of those people at the protests obviously didn't have jobs?

You know the march was on a SATURDAY, right?

It really, really upsets me.
I have a really hard time understanding how the people that taught me how to spot BS, chided me for lying and calling people names, taught me that love is always better than hate...are blindly following. How they don't get that this emperor has no clothes.

That whole "you don't want the pilot to crash the plane thing?"
Well, yeah. But he's not a pilot. He's a hijacker.

Part Two of this...

We ALL need to use our voices. We all need to stand up.
I've been strong before, but I don't feel like I am right now, to be honest. I feel like if anything, I've let bad things happen to me that I full well know better than to allow in my life.

But look. No one can step back and hide in the crowd now, I truly believe that.
So I'm not.
And you shouldn't either.

He's naked, guys. Full on naked.
Someone needs to say it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Words? Well yeah. Words.

The curtains are drawn here, and though the leaves are finally turning and blanketing the ground in color...I'm not out there right now. I'm in here. It seems like a nice day out, but it doesn't feel nice. I'm all for people following their hearts and though I've struggled with some people's political leanings more this year than any year in the past, I'm not a "if you vote X then delete me" sort.

In any case, what's done is done, and now Donald Trump will be president.

Typing that feels exactly the opposite of how typing The Cubs win the World Series feels. That last sentence was this achievement, this "everyone together winning, we're really nice guys" kind of feeling. It felt like no one person could have gotten there without the other. It felt like Chicago kinda of unified to celebrate even if you were a Sox fan. It felt like we had a week full of just happy to float around and celebrate our favorite pasttime, knowing something else was looming in the background. When I said those words, when I typed that sentence, it didn't feel real because it was reaching this goal I didn't think we could reach (or they, more appropriately) and because I was so excited they had I wondered if I'd wake up and it'd be a dream.

Typing the other sentence, the one where Trump is president....that makes me feel afraid, genuinely. That makes me feel like the people around me, even those who I know as loving *to me and generous *to me and kind...well, it makes it seem like the world I know might be a dream.

I haven't said much and I feel the weight of that on me today. I haven't said much because I haven't healed from the last time I felt so fundamentally disconnected from everyone and everything around me, or like I didn't know the people I thought I knew. And it's hard to type what I'm going to but I will anyway. I used to worry that people that I went to church with as a kid would see me having a cocktail while out in the towns we all grew up in. I worried that if I decided to vote for Barack Obama because I believed in what he stood for, and I said that to certain people, that I'd be disowned or at the very least, considered "backslidden" or that it would somehow make me completely devoid of good and God. I worried that what I was seeing in some of my past that I didn't like and trying to get away from would also take away all the people I grew up with.

Taking away the people I grew up with, especially in the early years when it was just me and my mom, no siblings or father, is pretty consequential in my world. I didn't want to lose those father figures, those that had helped my family.

I felt like I had new eyes, seeing things I hadn't seen before. Fear as a tool, compassion as a lie, and casual disregard where there should be love. Once, I talked to Pete  Holmes, a comedian who grew up very similiarly to how I did, about it. The thing he said helped guide me through that storm. He said that he liked to think of religion and everything we were raised with as a room with a bunch of furniture in it. "You get to choose what you keep in it" he explained. "You could empty it completely, close the door and never come back, or you can decide what's worthwhile and needs to be held on to."

So I tried rebuilding.

That was that first time. This feels like a second. I'm afraid to figure that out again. I'm afraid to clean out another room, this time one that represents the country I know. Thing is, I didn't realize how much fear won here. I didn't realize how much misinformation reigned. I mean, I was aware things were bad, but this is like the closet you open and stuff just keeps pouring out.

In fact, I feel like there was no win/lose this time. It was all lose.
This was the worst I feared, because of open vitriol and hatred, but I think I'd have been afraid either way. I'm worried that the changes about to be wrought are going to grind things to a halt. I'm worried that my friends that I love, whether immigrants, lgbtq or not, are going to be in a bad place. I'm worried for nieces and nephews and brothers in law who have to follow the orders of someone who engages in twitter wars who now has the position to start real ones.

This has been...what....700 words on fear and disjointedness and not belonging and figuring things out?

But that picture is what I'm holding on to today. I found that at the Field Museum's Tattoo exhibit, and it really, really spoke to me. This is a tattooed woman from 1928. Every bit the 20s look, every bit the pin-curled, perfectly painted lipped beauty, but covered in courage. Her lace is permanent. I'm sure she faced unkind words, maybe alienation. Maybe she was considered undateable or too dangerous or a woman of loose morals because she looked like that. Maybe she lost friends, who didn't want to be seen with her.

But look at that smile. Look at that confidence. Look at that beauty, because it comes from a bold woman who knows that she is what and who she is, and that she isn't about to hide that or be someone else because it's what would make the least trouble. She's not staying inside or wearing long pants and long sleeves.

And that's what everyone needs to do. After we process this today, maybe stay in our jammies and wonder what the world will be like, we stop wondering and we make it full of love. I may not agree with who you voted for, but anger and hate isn't going to get us anywhere good. Instead of saying I told you so, instead of wishing for something else, I'm going to be one of those that picks up the torch and keeps working towards a better world, because the world doesn't owe me one, I owe it one.

For those afraid, I understand.
For those celebrating because they wanted something drastically different and feel they got it...well, I hope, genuinely, it turns out well for the country, though I see it very differently.
For those who feel endangered- I will stand by you. I am your friend and I love you. You are valuable. Your uniqueness and your perspectives matter.
I won't stay inside.
I won't cover up.
I won't feel afraid to write the truth no matter where it gets me.
I will be more unafraid, because that's what this moment calls for.

And I'm afraid of it, but getting past fear is the first step towards anything good, I think.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

New Things Comin'

It is chile time. Our big box of spicy love shipped from the Hatch Valley in New Mexico to us just last week. The timing was not fortuitous, as it was also one of the busiest times of the year for me with Chicagoist, but we rolled with it, and soon there will be plenty of delicious payoff.

I didn't grow up in New Mexico, but it did catch my soul pretty quickly, as I'm sure anyone who knows me knows. The smell of chiles blistering over an open flame instantly takes me to fall in New Mexico, which, though not as varied in color, is one of my favorite things ever.  It's time for burning Zozobra and your worries from the past year, time for stocking up on the good stuff to feed you through the winter, and a fantastic time to get out and hike the beautiful canyons, mesas and mountains.

For me, chiles are the first sign of fall, and I adore fall, even if it is sneaking up on me way more rapidly than I'd supposed it would.

Still, the last two weeks  have been full ones.  Two weekends ago, I got the chance to go to Great America with my friend Erika and her daughter, who had never been before. It was a pretty excellent day, weather-wise, for the trip, and her daughter turns out to be all for the splash down, so we went on every water ride we could and some of the smaller rides in between. It's amazing how little has changed at the park, and how many memories it brought back being there. It's also really, really fun to see the park through a child's eyes.

I may even have gotten some cool-friend-of-mom's points when I decided to follow her into the splash area here.

This past weekend, it was all pop culture, all the time. I took on my annual coverage of Wizard World Chicago for Chicagoist as both writer and photographer. In fact, if you haven't seen it yet, please check out my coverage here, including the amazing cosplay shots from all four days of the show! 

Basically,  I lived in Rosemont for four days and subsisted solely on trail mix and Red Bull while taking in panel after panel of behind-the-scenes fun and stories from the likes of the X Files cast, Bruce Campbell, Lea Thompson, Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox. 

STILL ALIVE! See, eyeliner tricks people into thinking you're bright eyed and bushy tailed. Nailed it!

And sugary, bad for you energy drinks trick your body into thinking you have energy. Thank you, science!

This is not an official pic of Barrowman, it's a "omg he's running around too much this is so blurry" pic of the whole ensemble. See the article for a more, um, stable view?

John Barrowman wove hilarious tales and wore interesting things, and Carrie Fisher made me remember how much I adored Star Wars in high school and how much of Leia just exists in her, with her fierceness, kindness and humor.  If I hadn't wanted to be Princess Leia before, I'd certainly like to be like Carrie Fisher. 

She manages a self-deprecating, humorous, kind voice of an advocate, and puts action behind her words. She can admit to her own struggle with her appearance and how she chased after looking great at the same time she admonishes us and herself that beauty isn't an accomplishment and being vain is a waste of time. She can also make even those who have the hardest time speaking up gather courage and strength to do it, connecting through mutual interests and a little bit of encouragement, and she did when she invited a girl and her helper dog to meet Gary Fisher.  It wasn't just a photo op, either. It was a real meeting, and she really cared. That  much was entirely evident. 

At the end of all the panels, malnourishment, cosplay and purchase avoidance, I was left a lot exhausted and a little disheveled, but it was all worth it. 

This cat is tired and has no idea what's happening. She also wants to go back to sleep now, dammit. This cat was me every night when I got home from Rosemont.

It's been a slice, August, and I can't believe you're almost over. New things are just around the corner and I'm excited about them. 

One other thing that happened while I was Wizard Worlding this past weekend?
I officially became the editor of the Beyond page for Third Coast.
It's an exciting addition to my resume, an awesome opportunity and a little bit frightening all at once, but I'm hoping to do Nancy and her team proud and bring great stories to Third Coast. 
While remaining, as ever I have, a Chicagoista.

Let's see what happens next.

Friday, August 12, 2016

52 Weeks of Relationship- Performed for Kill Your Darlings Live Lit Event 8/10. Chicago

Maybe an early sign that he was right for me was back in our high school days. I was staring out the band room window at the blanket of gray clouds pouring rain on broken pavement, and decided I'd like to walk home in the rain with somebody.  He obliged, and walked a mile in the opposite direction of his own house, in the rain with me. And though even then, I was enamored with his sparkly brown eyes, silky dark hair and  thick pensive eyebrows, I remember it as a gesture of true friendship, and that friendship was one we kept up, even after leaving school and going separate directions for a while.

Our story is one of shared nerdery. Many years later, on an early date, we intentionally mispronounced words together and laughed about extinct units of measure. I brought him The IT Crowd and he brought me an entire universe of Star Trek.  But this is about food.

I entered the world of home cooking much the way a cartoon rat did.  Rachael Ray, she of the high-beam smile and cutesy words for ingredients, declared that anyone can cook. So I did. I made pastas and pizzas and whatever the hell a "stoup" is, and realized it was fun. I started making sauces from scratch and found it relaxing and engaging all at once. I cooked for him, hoping to impress.
I didn't know where cooking would take us. I didn't know how to long-term relationship. In the early months of our relationship, he intimidated me. He was definitely the smartest man I'd been with, the most open. He has a certain air of "cool" around him that an awkward turtle like myself only aspires to.

Our first Valentine's Day together was at his parents' house. He was and is their full time caretaker, and I wanted to help. So to fight the bitter cold, we made pot roast. With fresh herbs (I insisted) and mashed potatoes spiked with cream cheese on the side. Comfort food, perhaps the only place comfort could be found then.

He began to be interested in food, too. In a short period of absence from each other he studied fiercely, smoking meats, making candy and learning all manner of dishes. We started cooking together.  And maybe it doesn't seem surprising now, but I was taken aback when he mentioned a "52 Weeks of Cooking" challenge he'd seen on Reddit and asked me if we could do it together. Spend a lifetime trying to get boys not to ignore you and have one suggest a 52 week long activity, and your jaw, too, would be on the floor. The challenge itself was simple. Each week, the moderators of this online community would present a theme. We would cook according to whatever technique, cuisine or ingredient was presented, and post pictures of our results.  Armed with the new DSLR he'd gotten me for Christmas, we plunged forward.

Diet Food, Ice Cream, Alcohol- we made bananas foster for that one, and not only did we NOT burn down the house, we got amazing pictures of the flames leaping forth from our saute pan. We also got lots and lots of upvotes. (explain here?) We started photographing each dish from start to finish, and so began our obsession with making things as "from scratch" as possible. (went so far as making butter)

One of our earliest successes was French Silk Pie. After a little research, we hit upon a beautiful, flaky butter based crust recipe, and he turns out to be an incredibly good pie maker.  I double boiled and folded and the combination was heaven. I learned his kitchen, how he learned, how he worked. We learned together, watching Good Eats as a primer to everything kitchen-related.
But it's not all fun and games, not 52 weeks. We once waited 12 days to receive Australian wattleseeds for a self-saucing pudding that....self sauced itself into a microwave flash flood. There were camera fails, oven fails, and visits to 5 grocery stores without being able to find a damn blade of lemongrass. Even though we had 3 weeks to post from when each theme was announced, with work, caretaking and life, it could get down to the wire.

Sometimes, one of us was sick, and the other was left to stir and photograph alone. Sometimes, we were in an argument, but we still had to make a bunch of egg salad for the Easter theme, and it wasn't getting any earlier. Once, the theme was colors, and we decided to go against the grain and choose Purple. I cannot tell you how long it took us to come up with something, but Martha Stewart to the rescue, we had a radicchio and eggplant pasta that was pretty purple. No thanks to Martha, it was pretty but also quite bitter, and the dinner crowd at our house was not amused.

We even travelled with the challenge. We were fortunate that our trip up north to Door County had us staying in a suite with a little attached kitchen and our hotel was right in front of an amazing bodega, and even more fortunate when the theme for that week was "Hangover Cures" and we made some killer late night breakfast sandwiches. I learned to make his dad's recipe for Hungarian goulash with him. He learned how to roll the golabki my grandmother and I made together, and did it better than I did. We later presented my 90 year old grandmother with that dish and won her full approval. We went whole hog during Concession Foods week and made handmade corndogs, funnel cakes, and big, shiny soft pretzels.  A little trivia for you: getting that mahogany brown right requires food grade lye. You know, the kind that can dissolve your entire arm? Gear was acquired and worn, and a mad scientist was born.

We tackled making bacon, smoking salmon, and handling a PSMO tenderloin (that's 'peeled, silver skin, side muscle on, which I didn't know). Sometimes, our exploits kept us up well after sane people had turned in. On one such occasion, I attempted to make tiny little apple rose tarts with the sunrise as a backdrop. During surf and turf week, when beef tenderloin and snow crab were on the menu, we were in a real groove. Potatoes were baked, beef was being sous vided, and crab was steaming. Unfortunately, the sky was turning a sickly green, and while some of us were still enjoying the fruits of our labor, the tornado sirens sounded and we had to ferry five cats and a few people to the basement and leave it all behind.  Week 52, I'd picked out snickerdoodles for our cookie theme, thinking the comforting pillowy cinnamon cookies would delight my sweetie and we'd finish in a beautiful sugar coma. What instead came out of our oven, I dubbed Snickerdon'tles.  Flat as pancakes and entirely too salty, I sadly snapped shots of my most personal fail. Up it went. But as I went to throw them away, there he was, popping a few in his mouth while reaching towards me for a hug.  "I think they're pretty good, anyway" he said.

It wasn't perfect. We didn't gold star that finish. Some weeks we hated the challenge. Some weeks, pans and doors were slammed.  Sometimes we had no idea what we were doing. But we kept going. We kept learning, we kept creating together, and when I think of all that time spent chasing internet points, trying to figure out what a good video-game inspired dish might be, and taking 100 shots of one freaking lemon, I can't help but see how much I learned about this whole damn long-term relationship thing. It's a marathon, but one you get to run with your best friend. Over and over again. On this week's menu? Video game inspired burritos, and a whole lot of love.